Resistance and I are old, old friends. You could almost call her my twin from the dark side. Sometimes she comes to me dressed as fear. Sometimes as jealousy. Sometimes as illness. Sometimes as a cruel judge. Sometimes as a blank, brick wall. Sometimes as my mothering heart. No matter how she’s cloaked, she’s extremely competent at her job, which is to get between me and all I dream of accomplishing before I die. That sounds big, doesn’t it? She’s very ambitious.
Primarily, Resistance is interested in keeping me from writing and publishing, and she can be very persuasive. “Ooooooh, you don’t want to write that!” she says. “What will people think?” Or, “Look! Over there! This activity will put you in a really calm, peaceful state of mind. Then you can squeeze a little writing in, if you’re not too tired.” She uses my children a lot, “Someday they’ll be gone. You can write then. They need you right this very minute. Don’t you want to be a good mom?!” Resistance can slip inside me like a haint and we spend six hours cleaning house, or fifteen painting a bathroom. She once even convinced me that what I really needed to do was buy all my clothes at WalMart for a year and blog about it. More recently she’s been showing up whining about middle age, with attendant minor illnesses and injuries. She’s tricky that way. Tricky and powerful. And she’s very good at creating monsters.
Resistance is not a rational creature (yours may have a non-feminine gender, but mine is all femme fatale with an advanced degree in manipulation). Her strongest arguments are always based on emotion, rather than facts. She knows that we might argue with facts. It’s much, much easier to distract and stall us by pulling those guilt/fear/pride strings way down inside us.
What if…we used our Resistance to help us? What if we could recognize her as an actual friend, a friend who stores up all our worry for us and keeps an eye on it so we can think of other, more important things? Imagine just telling yourself that you can and will do the thing you want to do, and let all the reservations rest with Resistance? She’s got all the reasons you can’t succeed, all the excuses, and she’s more than comfortable with them. Maybe we should be thanking our Resistance for looking out for us.
There’s another way to view Resistance: as an adversary. Stories move forward with the energy created by conflict. As humans we may not like conflict, but it’s conflict that sparks growth. (I almost wrote that as “often sparks growth” but I think that some inkling of conflict is always a catalyst.) The part of us that wants to pursue great, or even small great things won’t get very far if there’s just calm, open sailing ahead. I know I imagine that’s what I would like–nothing in my way, ever–but then I would feel like what I wanted had been too easily achieved and wasn’t worth much.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. –Thomas Paine
Even if the conflict is a dramatization by our own Resistance, it’s still useful to keep us on track. Just to know she’s there, ready to throw an obstacle in our path, is often enough to keep us fighting on. Nearly every other conversation I have with one of my best writer friends is about Resistance. She regularly reminds me that the bigger the obstacles Resistance tries to put in our paths, the more important the work is that Resistance is trying to derail. That is the work we need to be doing.
It’s not just writers and artists who encounter Resistance. What important work does Resistance try to keep you from doing?
February 16th Words
Journal: 375 words
Long fiction: (Edited 2 chapters–need to do at least 30 between now and Monday)
Short fiction: 0
Non-fiction: 0 words
Blogging: 654 words
Exercise: Dance Central, 25 minutes, until the landscape guitarist pulled up the driveway with a bushhog for the meadow. Show over! 20 minutes on the less mortifying exercise bike.
3 thoughts on “Hello, Resistance, My Old Friend”
Laura. this is beautiful, and so very true. I enjoyed the title and the substance of this arena you label ‘resistance.’ I believe this happens to many of us in all areas of our lives, but to stay on topic, let’s talk about the creative, writing process —I am including a ling to Gail Godwin’s essay titled ‘Water at the Gates.’
The question really circulates around the notion of ‘fear.’ Fear of success is as strong as fear of failure; both have the same symptoms and we react by the way we feel.
I adore Thomas Paine’s quote and I live very close to where he lived and his house is part of a guided tour.
Oh, Gail Godwin has described it so perfectly. I hope everyone will read this essay, Skye. Thanks so much for the link. And, yes, fear of both of success and failure is at the heart of the Watcher. You’re absolutely right.
oops, correction: that should read link and Watcher….